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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy


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It may leave your head scratching, but many of the Programmers Guild whiners will try to convince you that they're actually the free traders. It reminds me of the brainwashing in Orwell's 1984 - "war is peace; freedom is slavery; ignorance is strength". That last one is particularly appropriate since these are the folks who are trying to keep out bright people from around the world they see as competition.

Actually, the only evidence they cite is an email exchange from several years ago with the economist Milton Friedman where he calls the H-1B visa a subsidy. Of course, Friedman is dead, he never actually wrote about the subject (answering a question by email doesn't count) and even if we assume he spent more than a nanosecond thinking about the H-1B visa, one can argue that he assumed that H-1B workers are paid less than the going wage rates, something that is barred by law. Incidentally, just ofr the sake of argument, even if H-1B workers were paid a lower rate, the existence of a quota on H-1Bs actually would have a trade distorting effect since companies that are lucky enough to get an H-1B visa in the annual lottery is better off than the one that doesn't. Scrap the cap and the issue goes away. More importantly, there has yet to be any serious piece of scholarship by an economist in this country  making the case that H-1Bs actually are anti-competitive.

Of course, the best evidence that restricting H-1Bs (and L-1s) would be protectionist is the fact that the visas are specifically covered in the US' signing in 1994 of the General Agreement on Trade and Services, a key international trade agreement. The US is barred by our treaty obligation from cutting the number of H-1Bs to less than 65,000 or imposing any cap on L-1 visas.

We've already seen worrying signs of protectionism in recent legislation,. The "Buy American" language in the stimulus bill got the attention of the rest of the world and the H-1B restrictions on TARP recipients also is making our major trading partners wonder about the country's commitment to free trade. The Economist noted this fear in a recent article.

Fortunately, the White House seems to get it. The President has been emphasizing the need for the world's leading economic powers to work together to solve the economic crisis rather then each country launching trade warfare against the others. I also was pleased to see Labor Secretary Hilda Solis tell a BBC television interviewer yesterday that while she would work to preserve jobs for American workers, the President has instructed her to make sure that the US honors its trade agreements.


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  1. George Chell's Avatar
    I think many developing countries would rather have us scrap H1Bs and send ten times the number of jobs their way!
  2. Rachel's Avatar
    Hello Greg,
    If you think beyond your immigration lawyer's cap, do you
    think these folks have a point?

    I'm really scared to see the anti-H1B (actually anti-Indian) sentiment in these forums. They are actually wishing death to Indian people. Do you have any stats on how many unemployed Americans there are in IT versus the H1Bs?

  3. exTCSer's Avatar
    "Do you have any stats on how many unemployed Americans there are in IT versus the H1Bs? "

    I do not think there are many US citizens unemployed in IT. Unemployed Americans in IT argument is total BS. Even now in this recession I do not see any qualified American applying for permanent positions at my client. And they end up contracting the positions paying $85-100/hr. Believe me my client does not like paying that money, they would rather have an employee. But qualified people are NOT applying.
  4. George Chell's Avatar
    "I'm really scared to see the anti-H1B (actually anti-Indian) sentiment in these forums. They are actually wishing death to Indian people. Do you have any stats on how many unemployed Americans there are in IT versus the H1Bs?"

    Not all of the H1Bs are in IT. There are H1Bs working in travel agencies and tourism industry among others. We are talking about a piddly 85,000 jobs out of a total of three million jobs. Three times the number of those jobs go abroad to India and other places each quarter. The fact that most folks are more concerned about 85,000 jobs than close to a million jobs going abroad each year tells us something else..people being more concerned about the changing complexion of the country than about unemployment!
  5. George Chell's Avatar
    Loads of jobs are moving from Iceland, Norway and Finland to developing countries..people are angry about unemployment but they dont see non-whites every day in those people dont write threatening stuff on blogs.
  6. Kevin Flanagan's Avatar
    55,000 of the annual 65,000 H-1B visas granted in 2007 went to people from a specific sub-continent. Very few of those 55,000 are travel agents. Almost all are in I.T.

    But one was found working in a laundromat, as an "engineer."
  7. Greg SIskind's Avatar
    "Kevin" - Your stat that almost all the Hs are in IT is complete baloney. Do you want me to provide the statistics or do you want to retract?
  8. Aron Smith's Avatar
    What a bunch of garbage!
  9. gg's Avatar
    Printed from TimesofIndia

    US co Sallie Mae to move out jobs from India
    7 Apr 2009, 1404 hrs IST, PTI

    WASHINGON: Sallie Mae, a US-based company which gives loans to students, Monday announced to move back as many as 2,000 overseas jobs, including those from India, even if it means an additional financial burden on the company because of higher labour expenses.

    "It's the right thing to do," said Sallie Mae Chief Executive Albert Lord at a press conference which was attended by Democrat Congressman Paul Kanjorski and Senator Robert Casey in an apparent reference to the large scale job losses in the US in the last one year.

    The value of a company's franchise is essentially measured in financial terms, but there are a lot of values in a company that relate to the long-term value of a franchise. It's a wise investment in the company's future, Lord said.

    "The current economic environment has caused our communities to struggle with job losses. They need jobs, and we will put 2,000 of them into US facilities as soon as we possibly can," he added.

    In the next 18 months, some 2,000 overseas jobs would be moved back to the US. These jobs are primarily in India, Mexico and the Philippines and are basically call centres, information technology and operations support positions.

    The move would cost the company USD 350 per annum as the workers in the US would have to be paid a much higher wage than those in countries like India.

    Sallie Mae is the largest US-based student loan provider. It employs more than 8,000 people in the US. For quite some time, it has been struggling during the credit crunch to finance loans to students.

    In the fourth quarter the company had reported a net loss of USD 216 million, in which it made USD 4.8 billion in student loans. Through its subsidiaries, the company manages USD 180 billion in education loans and serves 10 million student and parent customers.

  10. Kevin Flanagan's Avatar
    I'm still waiting on those numbers, Greg. What is the IL lobby hiding?

    Could it be that they don't want the reality exposed? That India has monopolized the guest worker visa program?

    That between the H-1Bs and the L-1s, guest workers from India have flooded the I.T. industry in the last decade, living out of suitcases and displacing Americans?

    That in some large corporate I.T. departments, Americans make up less than 25% of the workers, with the majority being from India?

    And is there not a case to be made when these guest workers create hostile work environments by speaking in Hindi and marginalizing American workers?

    Perhaps there is a new business model there for the lawyers who used to facilitate the importation of de-facto indentured servants.

    What say you?
  11. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    Kevin - You asserted that virtually all H-1Bs are going to IT, not me. That's a ridiculous lie and I asked you if you wanted to back the statement up before I had to embarrass you with the actual figures or if you wanted to retract the statement. Obviously, you're stubborn. Unfortunately, you're also really, really wrong and I'm happy to prove it. You really shouldn't be so cocky when you have no clue.

    For the latest report issued by USCIS, only 43% of H-1Bs go to computer-related occupations. I don't expect you to apologize because facts are not something you seem to respect.
  12. gg's Avatar
    The Supply Side of Innovation: H-1B Visa Reforms and US Ethnic
  13. FormerL1's Avatar
    Hi Greg,
    Are there any stats from DOL on the rate of unemployment among American IT works versus the rate of employment among H1B workers? Also do you agree that there is rampant fraud in the H1B program especially from the outsourcing perspective? Do you have any insight you can share into what the USCIS/DOS/DHS is doing to filter out the fraudsters? They hurt genuine foreign professionals like me more than anyone else. Thanks.
  14. Kevin Flanagan's Avatar
    Greg, Characteristics of Specialty Occupation Workers is from 2005. Those numbers all almost 5 years old.

    And here's the correct URL:
  15. George Chell's Avatar
    "Greg, Characteristics of Specialty Occupation Workers is from 2005. Those numbers all almost 5 years old."

    Have an idea. Are you willing to take back all Americans working abroad working on fat expat salaries taking jobs from locals in return for sending foreigners home? That is only fair!

  16. Greg Siskind's Avatar
    "Kevin" - The '05 numbers are the latest and they are consistent with similar reports over the prior twenty years - even during the Internet bubble years of the late 90s when you would have expected tech numbers to be much higher. It was YOU who made the assertion that virtually all H-1Bs are going to tech workers. All of the available evidence says this is a ridiculous claim and if you don't want to be perceived as a liar or an idiot, the burden is on you to show on what you base your claim. The link you provided has the 43% figure which, of course, contradicts your claim.
  17. Kevin Flanagan's Avatar
    Greg, I'm trying to get some more current numbers, but in the meantime I came across some appaling comments from our "guest workers":

    I am a H1B in a university based medical research. All of my coworkers are foreign born. My department head is an American. He has openly said "I will be very cautious in hiring Americans, because they are lazy and counter productive". He burnt his finger several time by hiring Americans. His favorite statement is "American don't want to work but wants to drive a Ferrari". No offense meant. But that is a reality.
    -- Medicine


    1. The US government sets up the H1 B visa system to give American jobs to foreigners.
    2. The foreigners take advantage of that.
    3. American businesses are greedy. They want profits at all costs. Screw the American workers.
    4. American workers have got fat and lazy. They abandon all the hard sciences and technical jobs. They just want to be lawyers and bankers. But without technology and manufacturing, the lawyers and bankers will have no jobs.
    5. Americans just want to have all the fun - playing golf and partying while their houses are burning down.
    -- H1 B Visa Worker

    haha, i see a lot of white trash here claiming their unemployment. educate yourselves so you can be a little bit more competitive and find a job, before you criticizing those highly skilled persons, who worked hard, are talented. who do you think that you "deserve" high pays when you actually just trashes?
    -- slkjl


    Fradulent financial products and weapons to fuel conflicts all over world. Where the weapons are coming from to Mexico? In my experience American's work ethics ***** they do 1 hours work in 2 days. This was told to me by American workers. IT and math skills of Americans are inferior to Indians. As far are accents go I have hard time understanding people from south and Minnesota, does that mean they are not Americans any more.

    by realthinker on Fri Apr 03, 2009 at 10:09:39 AM PDT[


    They don't seem very grateful, do they? And why do most of the derogatory comments come from people from India?
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